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Friday Slide Show: Three Coins Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

24 April 2020

We're very glad we lived to see this day when families spend the day together, when the arts are remembered as things anyone can do, when cooking returns within reach of even the Starbucks set, where the air is cleaner and the water is clearer. It's a world, in short, of human dimensions.

Sure, there's the other side of the coin, too. We mourn the suffering and deaths as we join in the grief of the survivors. We would stand on our porch and sing or clap or howl for the janitors and store clerks and mask sewers and first responders and medical teams and everyone else putting themselves in harm's way so we can sing or clap or howl.

Did we say "coin" up there?

In this period of please-don't-pass-cash at the register, we may have forgotten what coins are. Those little disks of metal stamped with numbers and pictures. On both sides.

Last year we fooled around a while with some coin photography just to see how we could screw it up. We weren't terrible pleased with the images, so we left them to appreciate in the archive.

Well, they haven't appreciated much. They still aren't terribly noteworthy, so to speak.

But on the theory that we may miss our coins and forget all about them in this more human time, we thought we'd dig into the archive to return with a few inspiring images of the otherwise filthy lucre.

To capture the coins, we used some derivation of the method shown here by photographer Bill Lawson:

We're not sure why he picked f11. Sharpness, one assumes. Although they're macro shots, there isn't much depth to them. We opened up a bit from there.

But we did use flash. Both diffused as he did and straight on. We found it difficult to get sufficient modeling of the sculptural relief on the coins.

So we did a lot of post processing in Photoshop on these. It was also the only way to straighten them.

And in the end, what we liked about them enough to show them to you today is the macro nature of the shots that reveal every scratch and ding on these less-than-pristine artifacts of our era.

We picked just three to highlight, each of which celebrates a historic figure:

  • Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was an Italian poet whose Divine Comedy remains readable in the original Italian even today. Among our favorite lines in the Inferno (Hell) is "Considerate la vostra semenza:/fatti non foste a viver come bruti,/ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza. (Appreciate your nature:/You weren't made to live like an animal/but to develop in virtue and knowledge.)"
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) was the 35th president of the United States who was assassinated in Dallas. In his inaugural address, he challenged his fellow citizens, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." And then he bid the nations of the world to fight the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself."
  • Juana de Asbaje (1648-1695) was a Mexican philosopher, composer and poet who educated herself in her grandfather's library. As a nun, she criticized misogyny and hypocrisy which led to her condemnation, forcing her to sell her library. She lived only a year longer, a victim of the plague she contracting caring for her fellow nuns.

Virtue, knowledge, public service, respect, integrity are celebrated on these three coins. We can't wait until they're back in circulation.

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